An article written for the WKYS 93.9fm Top 30 under 30 in February 2009
By Patrice Camaeu
ian Keith Callender’s ‘sneakerhead’ moniker is one that’s been duly deserved, but, not comprehensive. As an entrepreneur, community activist, graphic designer and event planner, Ian is steadily taking his love of sneakers to new heights – expanding his reach and appeal to the masses by creating one of a kind experiences for all involved.
A native of the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, Ian, 27, graduated from DeMatha High School. In the early 90’s, he adopted the nickname “iCan” from neighborhood friends on the basketball court, and found himself emerging as a bona fide sneaker connoisseur, seeking out the most extravagant soles on the market. His unique passion for sneakers inspired him to create a commercial gallery website called iCan2k1.com. Launched in December 2000, the site was a haven for sneaker enthusiasts, near and far, to share their amusement for sneaker collecting. Ian’s credibility amongst fellow sneakerheads was further enhanced by his ability to obtain the most hard-to-find kicks; like the “Air Jordan Retro VI+ Olympic Editions” or the “Metallic Zinc Flightposite KGs”. While iCan2k1.com was also created to practice Ian’s web development skills, it quickly grew to a much bigger phenomenon. By 2001, he had more than 12,500 unique visitors per month, and buzz grew rapidly with Ian receiving purchase requests from well-known D.C. business owners. Ian began featuring his exclusive footwear in P.A. Palace and Canin Sport, two urban retail staples in the nation’s capital. This prompted him to expand his entrepreneurial range and form iCan Inc., which served as the parent company of iCan2k1.com. iCan2k1.com birthed many national and global relationships. Site visitors looking to scope out the newest shoes and companies looking to market to the growing sneaker enthusiast market, all began consulting Ian for his expertise and uncanny ability to inspire the sneaker movement.
The iCan brand further expanded in 2004 when Ian began receiving media attention for his unique work. In February 2004 Sole Collector magazine highlighted the Black History month fashion show he executed at Drexel University. The show’s "Just Shoes" scene featured a café with waitresses serving footwear on silver platters to models onstage. Sneakers were also tied around the waitresses’ necks and a slideshow of images of the vintage and upcoming releases from Nike, Adidas and Jordan Brand, the show’s sponsor, played in the background. The April 21, 2005 Washington Post article, “Sole of the Sneakerhead”, featured Ian and his shoe collection, and ran on the Style sections front page – a truly impressive placement for a one-man show with no publicist. The article, a brief mini-series of his sneaker history, explained his true passion for the accessory.
In August 2005 Ian created "iCan's Sneaker Suite", thesneakersuite.com, an original conceptual showcase fusing music, fashion, food, art and sneakers. Also a celebration of his 23rd birthday, the event conquered prohibited territory by allowing patrons to wear sneakers in the nightclub venue. With performances by Raheem DeVaughn and W. Ellington Felton, live artwork by Demont Peekaso, a sneaker gallery full of rarity and exclusivity, complimentary food, free drinks courtesy of Heineken and an EA Sports showcase letting guests preview the newest Madden video game release. This marked the birth of a beautiful, yet unique boutique brand: the Sneaker Suite. Since then, Ian has been the brain behind numerous memorable events – the deep in the district fashion series (3); P. Diddy live at Ibiza nightclub; “Ciroc the Vote” to encourage political involvement and “The Collaboration” featuring Kenny Burns, both at the National Harbor’s Art Whino; and a community recruitment initiative for Girls Scouts of America with Angela and Vanessa Simmons at Shoe City.
Eight years and more than 50 events later, Ian’s strategic event planning efforts rank second to none. The Sneaker Suite brand is largely recognizable in the urban community and Ian continues to create new ventures for his company. The annual “Kicks for Kids” shoe drive program challenges those who are more fortunate to give back to their communities. Since 2006, he’s partnered with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Washington, and local radio, television, and print outlets to donate more than 300 pairs of new and used shoes to families in need during the holiday season.
Ian is a graduate of Philadelphia’s Drexel University, where he earned a Bachelor of Science in dual concentrations: Computer Engineering and Information Systems and Technology with a Minor in Business Administration. He is currently the Director of Information Technology for ESCO Ltd., the parent company of the Shoe City retail chain. He truly enjoys working with the area’s youth, and speaks to students from Pre-K to college, sharing his story and hopefully showing them that turning your hobbies into successful businesses is very possible.
His sole is definitely in it for the long haul. Next up? Suite Nation, suitenation.com.